The 6 Most Shorted NYSE Stocks: GE Comes Out on Top

July 13, 2016 by Trey Thoelcke

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Source: Wikimedia Commons
While short sellers shied away from many of the most heavily shorted stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange between the June 15 and June 30 settlement dates, GE bucked that trend. In fact, a surge in the number of GE shares sold short during those two weeks lifted the stock to the top of the list.

On the other hand, leading the downward trend was miner Freeport McMoRan, which saw a double-digit decline in its short interest. However, that wasn’t enough for it to slip out of the top 10 most shorted NYSE stocks.

Note that all of the top six stocks had more than 110 million shares short at the end of the most recent settlement period.

GE

The short interest in General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) jumped about 69% to the highest level year to date, or about 188.56 million shares during the latter two weeks of the month. That was 2.1% of the iconic conglomerate’s float, and it still would take more than four days to cover all short positions.

GE is among the companies buying back the most stock this year, and the share price ended the short interest period up more than 3%. It is now up less than 4% year to date and closed Tuesday at $32.26. Shares have traded between $19.37 and $32.50 in the past year.

Vale

The number of Vale S.A. (NYSE: VALE) shares short retreated by more than 11.63 million during the period, or more than 6%, to nearly 168.90 million. That was on top of an almost 7% decline in the previous period. At the most recent average daily volume, it would take about seven days to cover all short positions.

The Brazilian miner aims to sell more iron ore to China. Vale’s shares ended the short-interest period almost 17% higher, though they pulled back some afterward. The stock closed most recently at $5.35, which is up more than 62% year to date, but also around 6% lower than a year ago. The share price has ranged from $2.13 to $6.26 in the past 52 weeks.

Sprint

As its short interest shrank around 4% between the settlement dates, Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) slipped further from the top of the list, where it had recently resided. The around 167.94 million shares short reported most recently totaled 26.8% of the float. The days to cover dropped from 17 to eight as the daily average volume rose sharply.

Regulators won’t let Sprint be acquired, even it keeps losing money. Its share price rose around 23% in the two-week period, and further since the settlement date. The S&P 500 gained a little more than 1% in the short interest period. The stock closed most recently at $4.82, or around 33% higher than at the beginning of the year. The 52-week trading range is $2.18 to $5.29.

Ford

After a modest bump in the previous period, short interest in Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) slipped only fractionally, bringing the number of its shares short to about 148.30 million at the end of the settlement period. That represented 3.8% of the total float, down from a high of more than 4% in mid-March. It would take about four days to cover all short positions.

Ford is considered one of the country’s most patriotic brands. The share price increased more than 4% early in the period but ended around 2% lower than on the previous settlement date. Ford shares have changed hands between $10.44 and $15.84 apiece in the past year. They were trading at $13.45 on Tuesday’s close, down more than 4% year to date.

Alcoa

Six consecutive periods of retreat, most recently by more than 3.17 million, left Alcoa Inc.’s (NYSE: AA) number of shares short at about 121.44 million by the end of the latest period. That was 9.5% of the total float. A rise in the average daily volume brought the days to cover down to about five as of the most recent settlement date.

In June, Alcoa offered details on its coming split. Its share price rose more than 11% but then gave up most of that gain in the short interest period. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had risen less than 2% by the end of the month. Alcoa shares have changed hands between $6.14 and $11.50 apiece in the past year. They closed at $10.69 on Tuesday.

Freeport-McMoRan

The number of shares short in Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE: FCX) shrank about 14% to nearly 110.39 million on the most recent settlement date, the lowest level of short interest since the beginning of the year. Some 9.0% of the miner’s float was sold short at the end of June, and it would take about three days to cover all short positions.

Freeport was expected to be a winner after the Brexit vote, and the share price ended the short interest period around 9% higher, though it was up more than 15% at one point. The stock closed most recently at $12.90 per share. The 52-week low is $3.52, well short of the 52-week high of $17.21.

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And the Rest

Rounding out the top 10 were Chesapeake Energy Corp. (NYSE: CHK), Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (NYSE: PBR), Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (NYSE: BABA) and Transocean Ltd. (NYSE: RIG). The standout here is Petrobras, with a drop in short interest while the others saw modest gains in the numbers of their shares short during the period.

Lingering just outside the top 10 were AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) and Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC).